Boost Your Performance! 3 Vegan Foods that Really Work

Watermelon slices on the wooden table

You’ve probably heard certain foods and drinks can boost athletic performance.

Coffee, for example, makes you run faster, and tart cherries reduce inflammation.

Researchers are finding that what you eat can actually boost cardiovascular efficiency, hasten recovery time, and increase immunity against common exercise-induced illnesses.

And the best part? Many of the best foods are vegan, cheap, and easily found at your local grocery store.

As a cardiovascular nurse, health coach, and endurance athlete, I love digging through literature on health and nutrition, and research on three of these performance-enhancing foods recently caught my eye.

So I teamed up with my podcast co-host, Jackson, to break down what you need to know to boost your performance with food.

3 Foods to Boost Athletic Performance

Below are three performance-enhancing foods that when incorporated into your daily routine, can lead to stronger racing and faster recovery. And what runner doesn’t want that?

Let’s start with one of my personal favorites:

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5 Effortless Ways to Eat Just a Little Bit Better

Fresh Turmeric Root

No doubt about it, it’s hard to suddenly start eating a whole lot better. Because while it’s no secret that eating almost exclusively whole, plant-based foods is a recipe for health, getting there is a journey that takes either a lot of time (my case) or a lot of willpower.

But if you’re a No Meat Athlete reader, you probably already eat pretty well (congrats!). So what next?

Over the past few months, I’ve made a lot of tiny upgrades to an already pretty healthy diet. Upgrades that take almost no extra effort (in some cases, none at all), but each makes a significant impact. And when you add them all up — or better, when tiny upgrades like this become your habit, and you make 20 or 50 of them over the course of a few months — your diet is substantially better for it.

Here are some simple ones to nudge you down that path.

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5 Non-Negotiable Vegan Foods to Eat Every Day (if You Want to Live a Long, Healthy Life)

berries

Everybody loves to talk about the latest and greatest disease-preventing superfood — but how many have you actually made a part of your daily diet?

As a cardiovascular nurse and nutrition consultant, I spend much of my time wading in the muck of preventable chronic diseases, and I’ve dedicated my life to understanding nutrition science and lifestyle medicine.

And more importantly for you, how those two disciplines can be used to prevent and treat disease.

What I’ve found is that certain health foods — normal foods, not hard-to-find superfoods — have a remarkable capacity to protect you from disease, increase athletic performance, and give you a fighting chance of living a long, healthy life.

Below I’ve compiled a list of five food types that meet this criteria. Foods that I recommend my clients eat every single day — without exception.

Here they are.

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The Secret to Healthy, Stress Free Eating

Somewhere in between Ann Arbor and Omaha, I learned the secret that would change the way I eat and plan my meals.

I don’t remember exactly where I was, because the whole book tour was something of a blur — 40 cities in 50 days to promote No Meat Athlete when it was published in 2013.

It was a different hotel every night. Sometimes with a fridge, sometimes not. No kitchens. No dishes. No blenders.

Basically, nothing that resembled the comfortable food routine I had at home. And as you can imagine, vegan restaurants aren’t exactly plentiful in places like Wisconsin and Nebraska (though Omaha actually surprised me).

So I learned an important rule for driving across the country as a vegan: when you find a good grocery store, stock up. On foods that you can eat on the go, with no prep.

Very quickly, I learned what foods worked best in the car to keep me from resorting to junk:

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What to Eat Before a Workout: 8 Easy Meals to Maximize Your Performance

What do you eat before a workout?

I’ve written about HOW to eat before a workout before. But I’ve come to realize that when people ask this question, they’re not looking for guidelines, but rather the specific foods that they can make — without having to think about it — to prime their bodies for a workout.

So the goal here isn’t to get that little half-percent edge on competition by being meticulous in your pre-workout nutrition. (For that, check out Ben Greenfield’s workout nutrition post and this one on 12-Minute Athlete about pre-workout meals.)

Instead it’s to eat something natural and quick, without a lot of planning, that’ll getting you 90 percent of the way towards perfect.

So that’s the motivation for this list: 8 simple, natural meals or snacks — vegan, of course — to eat before a workout. The criteria I aim for in choosing a pre-workout meal:

  • Lots of carbohydrate, a little bit of protein (a 3:1 ratio is best, but you don’t need to be exact with it)
  • Whole foods, with just a few exceptions where it will benefit performance
  • No caffeine — no doubt it helps performance, but for everyday nutrition I leave it out

I’ve divided them into categories based on when you should eat each. If you’ve got the time and aren’t worried about getting too many calories (say, for a weight loss goal) eat one from each category before a big race or workout; otherwise eat only the just-before-the-workout meal.

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Can You Still Eat Ultra-Healthy on a Budget?

We all want to eat healthy foods — plant-based, organic, non-GMO, and whole, whenever possible.

Whenever possible.

For me and many others, that translates as “when we can afford to do so.” After all, a healthy diet can cost three times more than an unhealthy one, and my family (and I bet yours) has got the grocery bills to prove it.

But are we supposed to just settle? That’s a hard choice to make, especially when it’s not just your health, but your kids’ health that’s at stake.

Today, I hope to make that choice just a little bit easier for you. Not by answering the “Is it worth it to buy healthy foods?” question — that’s up to you — but instead providing some objective guidance as to which healthy foods are the most worth your hard-earned money.

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5 Food Trends that Fascinate Me

Fresh salad bowl

This post is the fifth in a series of six that I’m doing in a sponsor partnership with the Cherry Marketing Institute. As always, words and opinions are mine.

“Put butter in your coffee; it’ll give you more energy and it’s better for you.”

“Eat low-carb, mostly fat … it’ll help you run longer.”

And my favorite: “Stop eating food, just drink Soylent!”

When I think of food trends, this is what I think of. Internet sensations that flare up and often fizzle out just as quickly.

(Actually, I’m not being fair to the three I listed to start this post. There’s some actual science behind the first two, and even if I don’t personally do them, it’s clear they’re working for some people. Number 3, though, is just dumb.)

We all like to laugh at food trends, to pretend we’re experts as we look back at the silly things we used to do (or that people in other camps do now). But some of what we now call trends will endure, and eventually we won’t think of them as trends at all. That’s how change happens.

So which ones are legit? That’s the big question, and your guess is as good as mine.

All of that said, here are five trends I’m betting my health on.

An admission: call me spineless, but I have trouble diving headlong into almost any new diet, preferring to experiment and then tweak to my liking. You’ll see that most of the trends I list here come with an explanation of where I’m not fully buying in, and what I’m doing to moderate.

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26 Weird Ingredients Vegans Use: An A-to-Z Guide

Note: this is a guest post from Esther at A, B, C, Vegan.

It’s time we admit it. We’re weird.

I mean that in the best way possible. And I know at least a few people agree: three years after Matt wrote it, The 17 Weirdest Things I Do Now that I’m Vegan is still the most popular post ever on No Meat Athlete. 

But you know what the weirdest part is, right? The ingredients we use! 

You know, the stuff you buy at the strange-smelling health food store. The foods your friends are scared to try. The ones that melt like cheese, gel like gelatin, and chew like pulled pork.

And of course, the ones that most people still associate with As-Seen-On-TV plant-pets from the 80’s.

It’s not just weird ingredients, though. Even when we use totally normal ingredients, we often do it in very unexpected ways.

But as weird as our ingredients may be, we use them for a reason: because they’re wonderful. 

These ingredients (and the strange ways we find to use everyday ingredients) help us fuel our plant-based lifestyles in a healthy way, while allowing us to experience some of the tastes and textures that we still crave. 

So here goes, kiddos: one weird vegan ingredient (or weird use of a normal ingredient) for every letter of the alphabet.

A is for Aminos:

Specifically, coconut aminos. Liquid aminos are an interesting easy way to add those building blocks that come from protein to your diet. More importantly, they’re a gluten-free alternative for the soy sauce flavor (if using Bragg’s, the brand you will commonly find), and the coconut aminos provide a soy-free and lower-sodium option as well!

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